As foreshadowed by the Hon. Minister of Health in his daily updates on Wednesday 9th February 2022, the government through the Oversight Committee has responded to the increasing request by families and relatives of ‘deceased persons’ to reconsider the current policy which does not allow persons that pass away in Honiara to be repatriated to their provinces for burial.
The Oversight Committee reiterates that the reason for restricting movements of deceased persons to provinces is to reduce the potential of transmitting COVID-19 virus to our rural and remote areas. Funerals are important events in our culture and they bring people together. The gathering of people becomes a potential ‘super spreader event’. If one or two people in the gathering are infected with COVID-19, they can transmit it to others that attend the event.
The Committee acknowledges the need to have a balance that would allow loved ones who pass away to be taken home together with a commitment by the communities to strictly observe and follow the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health on funerals and burials.
The Committee agreed to adapt the Standard Operating Procedures [SOPs] it used to bring deceased citizens that passed away while overseas.
The Ministry of Health is refining that SOPs to be observed in any repatriation of deceased persons to provinces. It will focus on (i) management of dead bodies, (ii) the guidelines on the actual transfer of the deceased; and (iii) the receiving of the casket at the other side and guidelines leading up to the burial of the casket. This will be made available as soon as it is completed and endorsed by the Oversight Committee.
Pending the finalization of the SOPs, the oversight Committee has agreed the following broad principles and guidelines that must be complied with for the repatriation of any deceased person to their homes for burial.